Food Security Report Reveals 15 Percent of Households Went Hungry in 2009 Why It's Not All Bad News that 15 Percent of Families Went Hungry Last Year

Last year was a 15 year high in terms of American hunger. The number of families who have trouble putting food on the table has tripled since 2006.

More than 17 million families—15 percent of all households—went without food at some point last year. That's about the same as 2008, which was a 15-year high. This is mostly more bad news about our sluggish economy, but there are some nuggets for optimism in this year's Food Insecurity Report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Among states, food insecurity ranged from a 6.7 per cent level in North Dakota to a 17.7 per cent high in Arkansas, as measured over a three-year period through 2009.


First the real bad news: The study also found that 6.7 million of those households—with about one million children—had consistent problems putting food on the table all year long. Those are what the government calls "very food insecure" families. The number has tripled since 2006, since the recession started. That number is the true tragedy of our society.

And the silver lining: Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services is somewhat hopeful according to the Washington Post. He points out that the number of hungry families stayed flat from 2008 even though the number of unemployed Americans increased. That's a sign we're getting food to people who need it, in part because more Americans are enrolling in, and benefiting from, our social safety net. Fifty-seven percent of "very food insecure" households are enrolled in food stamps, WIC, or other government programs. In total about one in four of households in America has at least one person signed up of benefits.

Visits to food pantries were also up 48 percent according to Feeding America. Hunger advocates like them are calling for an increase in donations to meet the need, but more importantly they say, is to push quick political action before the end of this Congressional session and pass the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

What's the solution to our epidemic of hunger? Is it more government programs? More charity?

See charts, read the report here.

Image (CC) by Flickr user SashaW

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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